Dental Emergencies & How to Handle Them


How to handle dental emergencies

Dental emergencies can happen at any place and any time. Being prepared and handling the issue properly might help save a
tooth. Visiting the dentist immediately after a dental emergency can increase your chances of saving your tooth and preventing further damage.

Where you should go:  Cliffcrest Dental or hospital emergency

For most dental issues, the best place for treatment is not a hospital emergency room, but here, at your dental office. Most hospitals are not equipped to  examine and treat dental problems; generally, they do not have the tools, staff, or correct x-ray equipment.

There are some exceptions.  You should go to the nearest hospital emergency facility if:

  • You suspect that you might have broken your jaw, or
  • Your mouth continues to bleed even after following our directions.

Here are common dental emergencies that require immediate attention, and tips on what to do before you can get to a dentist.


One of the most common dental problems, a toothache can be a symptom of a number of problems. Usually, a toothache indicates that there is decay in the tooth. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, call the dental office to arrange an appointment.

To start, we recommend that you rinse your mouth with warm water and thoroughly clean it. Use dental floss to remove any food debris that might be trapped and brush your teeth well, being careful in the area that is hurting you.

Do NOT place an aspirin, toothache medicine, or numbing agent on the aching tooth or gum tissues. These can burn the tissue and cause even more harm to the area, increasing your pain.

Chipped or broken tooth

All is not lost if your tooth is chipped or broken; most of the time, it can be saved. Just be sure to call your dentist as soon as possible so they can see you right away. For small breaks, the dentist might use a filling to fix the tooth. For serious breaks, a root canal may be needed. Your tooth may also need a crown (also called a cap).

If your child has chipped their tooth and is bleeding or in pain, contact the dentist immediately. Fast action can save the tooth, prevent infection, and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment. Gently rinse the mouth with warm water, gently cleaning any dirt or debris from the injured area. To prevent swelling, place a cold compress on the face in the area of the injury. If you can find the broken tooth fragment, bring it to the office with you.

Broken filling

A sharp edge on the remaining filling material or on the tooth itself can be smoothed using a small, fine emery board. A small hole can be filled temporarily using beeswax or temporary filling material found at drugstores. Call the dental office to schedule an appointment for the filling to be repaired properly.

Knocked-out permanent tooth

An adult or permanent tooth that is knocked out of its socket is a dental emergency that requires prompt treatment. Studies have shown that if the tooth is put back in the socket within 30 minutes, the chances of the tooth surviving are quite high.

In the event of a knocked-out adult tooth, here is what you should do:

  1. Stop the bleeding with a clean piece of gauze or cloth
  2. Locate the tooth and handle it carefully by the crown (i.e. not the root) to prevent damage to the small fibres on the root surface.
  3. Remove debris from the tooth by gently rinsing it with saline or tap water.
  4. Do NOT scrub the tooth, sterilize it, or immerse it in alcohol or any other disinfectant.
  5. Gently place the tooth into the socket and immediately contact your dentist.
  6. If placing the tooth in the socket is not possible, then store the tooth in a container of cold milk, packed in ice or refrigerated, or in the patient’s saliva.
  7. If a container is not available, then place the tooth under the patient’s tongue.
  8. Do NOT store the tooth in water or saline, as this will reduce the chances of successful re-implantation.

Knocked-out baby tooth

Contact your dentist as soon as possible. If there is bleeding, rinse the mouth with water and place gauze in the opening. You can also apply cold compresses on the outside of the mouth to reduce swelling. Keep the child calm instead of looking for the tooth – baby teeth will never be replanted. Never try to reinsert the tooth into the opening – you may damage the permanent teeth growing underneath.

Loose tooth

A loose tooth could be caused by gum disease or by a blow to the mouth. In any case, it is a serious problem. You should see your dentist.

Lost filling

Avoid chewing on the area. Keep it as clean as possible and schedule an appointment to have it fixed or replaced.

Cut or bitten lip or tongue

Apply ice to the affected area(s). If there is bleeding, apply firm but gentle pressure with a clean gauze pad or cloth. It is best to lie down and rest so that you do not elevate your blood pressure. If the bleeding does not stop within 15 minutes or it cannot be controlled by simple pressure, go to the nearest hospital emergency facility.

Object caught between teeth

Gently guide dental floss between the teeth in the affected area, being careful to avoid cutting the gums. Sometimes waxed or extra-fine floss will make this easier. If flossing is difficult, you may try using a Soft Pic (soft, flexible interdental cleaner) to dislodge the object. Do NOT use sharp or pointed objects! If you are unable to remove the object on your own, call Cliffcrest Dental.

Broken jaw

DO NOT MOVE THE JAW. Secure the jaw in place by tying a handkerchief or towel around the jaw and over the top of the head. If swelling is present, gently place a cold compress on the area. GO TO THE NEAREST HOSPITAL EMERGENCY IMMEDIATELY.

Broken denture

If a single tooth breaks off your denture, it can be temporarily secured using a small amount of glue. Be sure to apply the glue while the denture is outside your mouth.  For larger breaks and to correctly repair small ones, call Cliffcrest Dental to book an appointment.

Sores from dentures

Small minor sores will occur occasionally. You can use a small, fine nail file to polish any minor rough spots on the denture. Do NOT cut away any of the plastic or metal and do not attempt to tighten the clasps on your own. Call Cliffcrest Dental to book a denture adjustment.


Canker sores (Aphthous mouth ulcers)

Canker sores usually resolve without treatment but can be uncomfortable. Over-the-counter preparations can provide some relief for these sores while they heal. Avoid hot, spicy, acidic foods & beverages while the ulcer is present. Since some serious diseases may begin as mouth sores, it is important to contact us if they persist or change.

Bleeding after losing baby teeth

A small amount of bleeding is quite normal when a baby tooth falls out. Have the child sit down and relax. Fold a gauze pad or cloth and place it over the affected area, having the child bite down to hold it in place for at least 15 minutes. Repeat and replace gauze if needed (sometimes it will take a little longer). If the bleeding persists, call the office or, if severe, go directly to the nearest hospital emergency facility.


Orthodontic problems

If a wire on your braces is causing irritation, cover the end with a small piece of orthodontic wax until you are able to see the orthodontist. If a wire gets stuck in the cheek, tongue, or gum tissue, do NOT attempt to remove it. Call your orthodontist immediately.

If an appliance becomes loose or a piece of it breaks off, contact your orthodontist. Be sure to bring the appliance and broken piece with you to your appointment.

Preventing dental emergencies

Accidents do happen, but there are ways to avoid injury to your teeth and gums. It’s amazing how everyday habits or eating certain foods can put your teeth at risk.

Do not bite ice –  The cold temperature and hard ice can crack and break your teeth or dental work.

Do not eat hard foods too fast – Treats like popcorn, hard candy, peanut brittle and shelled nuts should be eaten slowly.

Do not use your teeth as tools – Let scissors cut tape and ribbons and open packaging for you and avoid lifting or holding things with your mouth.

Wear a mouthguard during sport. –  Mouthguards absorb shock and protect teeth from damage, especially during contact sports. Custom mouth guards provide optimal fit and the best protection. Speak to your dentist about a sport mouth guard suitable for you.

Preventing problems in general

Regular dental check-ups are an important part of any good prevention programme. Your dental check-up at Cliffcrest Dental allows us to detect problems when they are small, in order to keep them from becoming worse. Regular dental cleanings remove plaque and tartar built up around teeth which cause tooth decay and gum disease.

For children, regular check-ups allow us to monitor the growth of their teeth and jaws and treat potential orthodontic problems before they become major ones. For patients of all ages, regular dental check-ups allow us to monitor the wear on existing fillings, replacing those which are worn out before they begin to break down. The best treatment is prevention.
We recommend semi-annual check-ups for most of our patients, consistent with the frequency recommended by the Canadian Dental Association. Some patients may need more frequent monitoring and some less, but the semi-annual dental check-up is designed to prevent costly long-term dental problems and to enhance overall health.